The house stood abandoned for close to a year. I grew weirdly attached to it. Protective of it, even.
Eventually, my curiosity led me ’round back, where both basement doors gaped open. I went in. On one side: hanks of rope, a stack of used lumber, and drawers full of old rolls of tape, bits of pipe, bolts and screws. Had the former man of the house been a plumber or were these the useful supplies that a handier, more self-reliant generation typically collected?
The cellar’s other side contained more personal items: a map of Italy, a metal wardrobe full of cloth, plates, a bundt pan, a crucifix. Or maybe, they were just more feminine. Next to a support-pillar, an open lawn chair by a shelf with clock and ashtrays spoke to retreat. A plumber who smoked?
I didn’t go upstairs until the second trespass. It was truly weird. The place looked as though someone had hurried out to a movie and would be back any minute. It certainly didn’t look like the house of someone who had died. Weren’t there children?
An umbrella tipped against the wall near the front door. The mantel populated with mementos. Sunlight flooding a dining room table, the hutch in the corner full of figurines and exactly the kind of coffee pot my sister had recently described. She wanted one.
The spooky impress of lives led and then gone. A shrine without a caretaker. A structure needing to be emptied and cleansed and no one to do it.
Yesterday, the postman told me that there were children — “the son was really weird.” He called the former inhabitant “one of the old Italian hold outs” — but I already knew that.
Week after week, Finn and I passed the house — its neglect and imminent demise notable.
Why wasn’t I taking anything? There were pots and pans! Crystal candy dishes! Hardware, blankets, linens and chairs! Shouldn’t I leave a note at the very least and offer to box stuff up and donate it?
Even after the fence went up (signaling the onset of demolition), I kept my hands off policy going. Maybe it was sheer inertia. But part of me began to think that burial in a pile of rubble might be a fitting end for these belongings. Dignified, even. Besides, weren’t my attics and cellars full? Didn’t I have piles of my own shit to box up and donate?
This week the excavator was delivered and with it, a sense of urgency. Time was nearly up! I snuck through the fence and went in for a third and final visit, this time all the way up to the bedroom level. It was eerie and sad. A radio next to a couch, both forlorn. One can imagine someone with the window cracked open to the sounds of summer listening to a Red Sox game.
This time I did take a few objects: two mixing bowls, a plate, four woven potholders, that glass percolator, and a few items from a hardware drawer.
Turns out, you can tear down a house in under an hour. Finn and I stood and bore witness in the bitter cold. More on that with the next post.